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The noble Lord asks me to raise my eyes and look a little beyond. With great respect to the noble Lord, that is a criticism which is ill directed. I have tried to raise my eyes; and I have tried to consider what is likely to happen in a few years' time. I hope that the noble Lord--here comes the commercial!--will have the opportunity to consider my views when he purchases the modest piece of literature now on the bookstands.
The important point is this. The Bill is nothing to do with the powers of the House. The Bill is about the abolition of the right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in this House. The issue of its powers will no doubt concern this House in great detail, and with considerable passion in months to come. But the Opposition cannot today pre-empt the possible legislation that the Government might wish to introduce after the Royal Commission has reported. With great respect, that is not on.
Lord Skelmersdale: Powers are an issue. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Richard, says, with all his authority, on the subject of powers not being a part of the Bill. But with powers go rights and obligations. As we all know, they are circumscribed in this House by the Salisbury-Addison rules or conventions (call them what one will). If the result of the Bill is--as it could well be--that the powers that exist, mostly by statute but also to an extent by Standing Orders, are no longer to be circumscribed by the Salisbury-Addison rules, it is a legitimate subject for discussion.
Lord Richard: An amendment could be tabled dealing with the Salisbury-Addison rules. That is not the amendment we are considering at present, which has nothing to do with the Salisbury-Addison convention. That is a convention between the two sides which the House has adopted. The amendment deals with the rules and powers of the House. There is nothing in the Bill about that. There is nothing in the Bill about Salisbury and Addison, with respect.
Lord Burnham: In the past few moments the noble Lord, Lord Richard, has said several times that the Bill has nothing to do with the powers of the House. Does the noble Lord accept that he would make these Benches a great deal happier if the Bill had something to do with the powers of the House?
Lord Richard: First, it is not my function to make the Benches opposite feel happy. Indeed, I have spent most of my political life attempting to do precisely the opposite. Secondly, once we start talking about the
The Earl of Onslow: What I love about the noble Lord, Lord Richard, is that he moved a Motion of no confidence in the previous government. It was a lovely thing to do, and it had nothing to do with powers. Having said that, I am afraid to say that I slightly agree with him. This Bill is not concerned with the powers of the successor chamber, but it is undoubtedly true that as a result of the passage of this Bill this House will automatically become more powerful.
It will become more powerful because the noble and imperial Lady Jay will not be able to say, "Ah, those silly ass hereditary Peers like the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, we do not have to listen to their argument. Should by any chance there ever be a Conservative government again, they will not be able to haul in vast hordes of marquesses and dukes of ancient lineage who only normally come here to vote against poll tax amendments".
Therefore, the House will become much more powerful, which is excellent. It is a good idea and I welcome it. But it is also worth putting on record that it is extremely easy in this House to bring the process of government to a halt. Every time the Chairman of Committees or the Lord Chancellor puts a question, one has only to say, "Not Content" to call a Division. It is not even necessary to appoint Tellers, and Fabius Maximus Cunctator is made to look like Linford Christie, he goes so fast. Therefore, we must accept that the Bill will make the House of Lords more powerful. With great respect to my noble friends Lord Strathclyde and Lord Caithness, I recommend that. I hate to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Richard, but on this occasion I do.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: I know that the Government and all noble Lords wish to get on, but I believe that my noble friends are justified in suspecting what, for want of a better phrase, I might call "unfinished business" in the Bill. It cannot be irrelevant to our debates that that thought should find expression in the amendment, otherwise it would have been ruled out of order and the authorities of the House would have declared it irrelevant.
Lord Stanley of Alderley: Inevitably in a Bill of this kind there will be some reminiscing. I am delighted to welcome back to the Back Benches my noble friend Lord Caithness. We last moved amendments together in 1981, when, unfortunately, he was so misguided as to join the Front Bench. He could not continue to harry his own Front Bench, which we did even though from the opposite side hereditary Peers are not supposed to harry their Conservative Front Bench. We are told that that is the case.
My noble and learned friend Lord Mackay in his report suggested that the powers of your Lordships' interim Chamber should be the same as they are today. My problem relates back to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, when on the previous amendment he was questioned by my noble friend Lord Mackay on what the Labour Party manifesto did or did not say about this matter.
Perhaps I may deal first with the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I hope to make him happier about the amendment being outside the Bill. I often did so in the past, much to the irritation of my Front Bench. Members of the Committee will remember that the manifesto stated that the House should be able to revise and improve legislation and,
Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: When my noble friend Lord Caithness was in Government I was rarely in agreement with him. I used to cause him a great deal of trouble. Therefore, in a remarkable turn of events, I find myself entirely in support of what he has said. My noble friend was trying to inject something into the Bill that should be there. Subsequently, he was attacked by the noble Lord, Lord Richard.
I have frequently been castigated by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, who is extremely adept at doing so. He is a powerful and an effective operator and it is easy to be squashed by him. I think that my noble friend Lord Caithness does well to stand up to him. He should not worry about being squashed by the Government on this occasion because, ultimately, it is important to achieve the correct Bill.
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